Business of Excellence: Oak Knolls Hardware and Home Center
- Business: Oak Knolls Hardware and Home Center
- Location: Orcutt, California
- Owners: Ben and Alyssa Honeycutt
- Years in business: 40+, 2 years under current owners
Ben Honeycutt describes himself as relentless. It’s a character trait that served him well as a U.S. Marine, a fighter jet mechanic, and a lead launch technician in the aerospace industry where he prepared rockets for flight. It’s also a trait that has helped him turn his new venture – Oak Knolls Hardware and Home Center – into an incredible success. And Paladin Data Corporation technology is helping him.
“I am relentless. I’ve been doing this for two years now and I’m always looking for ways to improve my business,” he says.
You might say retail is Ben’s latest obsession.
As a teenager growing up in Kansas City, he felt the calling to serve his country. He did four and a half years in the Marine Corps serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Japan. He gained experience working on F/A-18s which led him to work in Southern California as an aviation mechanic. That job in turn landed him a position with Space Exploration Technologies Corp, better known as SpaceX. There he helped build the hangar and launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where the company has launched a portion of nearly 150 space flights. He also helped get Firefly Aerospace off the ground before deciding to change his career path.
After spending years traveling between Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral, Ben and Alyssa purchased a hardware store just minutes from home in Orcutt, California. It’s Ben’s first real job in retail, but once he and wife Alyssa made the decision, they’ve never looked back and attacked their new profession with zeal. Alyssa runs her own business – wedding and events rentals – but also helps marketing their store.
However, their new venture got off to an inauspicious start.
“Right about the time we were going to (buy the business), the pandemic hit. A lot of learning took place after that,” he says.
Some of the learning revealed the hardware industry was doing well. Some of it was converting the business to Do it Best to gain a bit more independence. And some was learning his Paladin point-of-sale system.
Ben says his Paladin system played a big role in his retail success. He likes the way the system gives him a real-time look at how his store is performing.
The PaladinNsight™ Non-Performing Assets and Investment Review tools helped him clean out inventory that wasn’t selling and replace it with items that do. He says he utilizes Paladin’s Suggested Order reports to speed up ordering and keep a tight rein on his inventory. Overall, Ben says he is impressed with the way Paladin makes his job easier.
“I worked for SpaceX for six and a half years and my job was to find ways to save time and cut costs. That’s what I did. Paladin does this stuff for my store automatically,” Ben explains.
Paladin not only helps Ben track his inventory, it helps cut operational costs, too. He says a simple feature like allowing him to regulate the use of his receipt printers reduced his paper costs from five boxes every six months down to one.
He also likes the way Paladin helps him track his customers. He signs nearly all of them up for Best Rewards to gain added insight into their purchasing habits. That information lets him automatically email monthly statements to his credit customers through Paladin.
“I look at my customer listings and rankings. I find out who my best customers are. Last year, we bought some nice gifts and sent them out at the holidays,” he explains. “I find the time to learn as much as I can about Paladin. I use pretty much every button this thing has.”
The results have been impressive. He did $1.1 million in sales in his first six months as owner and topped $2 million the following year. He has nine employees and has been so successful that his business already needs a larger space. Even though Oak Knolls Hardware is in an area near some of the big box hardware retailers, he’s definitely found his niche and has a loyal following.
“We all greet customers when they come in. You treat your customers right and they’re going to come back,” he says.
His success has not only benefited his store and family, he also gives back to his community.
Oak Knolls Hardware has donated thousands to youth, education and veterans causes in Orcutt and northern Santa Barbara County. Ben uses social media extensively to publicize his store and its promotions. His Facebook videos have become extremely popular and have helped both his store and its fundraising efforts.
Overall, Ben is enjoying his new livelihood.
“This excites me,” he says. “We’re on track to have another good year. Things are working well.”